Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mitchiri Neko, Molang & Snoopy Char Siew Bao (叉烧包 naturally coloured and made from scratch!)

I was planning to post some of my macaron bakes but these baos are just too cute to be held back from being posted! They brought smiles all around the family because they are unbearably cute and yummy :). My elder kid requested for char siew baos so I made these...

Michiri Neko, Molang and Snoopy! All naturally coloured!

A close up view of the soft fluffy bao skin and yummy char siew filling. All made from scratch!

I had loads of fun making these baos and burst out laughing looking at the whole collection of Nekos. Hubby walked into the kitchen, took one look and laughed too! The best part is, these are one of the easiest to create as only a single coloured dough (except for Snoopy) has to be prepared for each bao and the only feature that needed shaping are the ears. The rest of the features were drawn on using edible markers after steaming. So I wasn't harried at all when assembling the baos like I usually am as you have to work fast to prevent the baos from being over-proofed.

I made extra char siew last week so some of it could be reserved for making bao. Please refer to this recipe from Rasa Malaysia that is really awesome. I omitted the red food colouring.

Homemade char siew! Tender and full of flavour!

If you prefer to use store-bought char siew, that is fine too. I don't blame you. To make the bao from scratch requires a lot of steps.

Recipe for char siew filling
(Adapted from here. Makes about 8-9 baos)
160-180g char siew, chopped
1/2 tbs oyster sauce*
1/2 tbs soy sauce*
1 tbs honey*
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder*
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tbs cooking oil

120ml water
1 tbs corn flour

* if you have char siew sauce bought from a stall selling roasted meats or extra homemade char siew marinade, you could use those instead of the "*" listed items.

1. Fry the onion in oil in a small saucepan until softened.

2. Add all other ingredients in A) and stir-fry for a minute or two.

3. Make the cornflour slurry in B) and stir well before gradually pouring into A), while stirring the contents in the saucepan.

4. Simmer until the sauce is thickened while stirring now and then. Let it cool. Do taste the filling before you turn off the heat to adjust the taste accordingly in order to have a balance of sweetness, saltiness and aromatic flavours that you like.

You may make the filling ahead of time and store in the fridge or if you are hopeless at pleating baos and working with wet filling like me, portion the filling into balls of 20g portions and freeze it as shown below with cling wrap.

The extra small ball of filling in the middle is for making Snoopy's snout.

The good thing about freezing the filling with gravy is, you are able to pack more gravy into the bao, making the bao filling more moist and juicy.

Recipe for bao skin
I modified the bao skin slightly yet again, paying attention to the process steps as well as ingredient proportion. It's really good!

160g Hong Kong bao flour, plus extra for dusting
20g cornflour
25g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1/6 tsp baking powder dissolved in 1/2 tsp of water
1/16 tsp ammonia bicarbonate (optional)
90g water
12g vegetable shortening/oil

1/2 tsp each of natural sourced powder food colouring; pink, yellow and green
1/4 tsp charcoal powder
Some water
Edible food markers

1. Mix the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl well with a wooden spoon. Dissolve baking powder and ammonia bicarbonate in 1/2 tsp of water.

2. Add water to the dry mixture and stir with wooden spoon until a dry dough forms. Gradually add in baking powder mixture to the dough and knead until well combined.

3. Pour the dough onto non-stick mat and gradually knead in shortening/oil until the dough is smooth and elastic and passes the windowpane test. About 20 minutes. I found it helpful to let the dough rest for 15 minutes covered with cling wrap before kneading in the shortening. This allows time for the flour to absorb the water. The dough feels more pliable in my hands after letting it rest. This step is not necessary as I have always omitted it but I read from a bread making by hand book that letting the dough rest this way allows more moisture to be retained by the dough. You may let the breadmaker/stand mixer do the kneading but I prefer to knead by hand.

4. Let the dough proof until almost doubled in size. I proofed in the fridge for about 3 hours as I was busy. If you are busy like me, simply let the dough rise in the fridge in a large measuring jug or container (covered of course) where you can monitor the rise. You can come back and work on the dough when you are free. Line the jug/container with cling wrap so you have an easier job of digging the proofed dough out. If you are letting it rise at room temperature, it takes about half an hour in hot Singapore. Knead the dough a few times to expel the trapped gas.

5. Portion the dough for colouring. I made 2 of each colour for Michiri Neko, one Molang and one Snoopy. Each round bao uses 30-31g of dough and the Snoopy one is about 50g. Dissolve the powder food colouring in a bit of water to make a paste. About 1/8 tsp for each colour. Gradually knead in the colouring.

Available at Cold Storage in Malaysia but sadly not seen in Singapore.

Food colouring! All natural!

Coloured dough! 

Keep any dough that you are not working with in the fridge wrapped to prevent over-proofing. Over-proofed dough does not taste good.

6. Lightly flour your work surface and fingers and flatten a ball of dough for the round baos. Place the frozen filling in middle and wrap it up, pinch sealing it. Place the bao pinched side down on a small piece of baking sheet. Add on the ears. For Snoopy, roll the dough to form an oblong shape that is wider at one end for the head. Place the larger ball of filling for the head and smaller ball of filling for the snout. Wrap the filling up and pinch seal it. Add on Snoopy ears, nose and eyes with black dough.

Wrapping up with filling!

All wrapped!

7. Proof for 40-45 minutes at room temperature (about 27-28°C) if you are using frozen filling like me, or 30minutes if you are not. I find it easier to wrap a frozen solid ball than to spoon loose and sticky filling onto the dough. Somehow the gravy finds its way out making the bao impossible to seal for me :p.

8. Steam on high heat for 8minutes. Turn off the heat and let the bao rest covered for 3minutes before opening the wok/steamer cover.

9. Draw the features with edible food marker after the baos have cooled a little. Molang's rosy cheeks were brushed on with peach coloured lustre dust.

Enjoy while it is hot! Freeze any leftovers after they have cooled in a ziplock bag. Resteam for 15minutes from frozen state when you want to consume.

Hope these put a smile on your faces!

Hubby and kids gave these a thumbs up! My elder kid says not to feed them commercial frozen char siew baos from the supermarket anymore because these taste much better! I can't guarantee that though because it is a lot of work :p but spread over a few sessions.

With lots of love,
Phay Shing


  1. Hi Phay Shing,
    See this post I really got "no mood" to eat ... why ? because they are too tooo so soo cutie to be "eaten alive" !!! Aiyoh, I can imagine holding them and bringing them to my mouth ... I'll be hearing "I'm so lovable, so cute, please don't eat me !" Wow haa haa ! ... I'm so stressed !
    Enjoy your weekend !

    1. Hi Karen,
      Have a great weekend too! Haha we help the cute baos to scream when we eat them! The kids really had fun eating these and I had fun making these relatively stress-free compared to some of my other cute baos. Really glad that the bao skin is one of the best I have made so far too!

  2. I've done it... I've found the cutest baos on earth <3

    1. Thank you :). I am honoured to receive this compliment from you!

  3. how long can the unused portion be kept in the fridge?